I found this article on FG Insights – a farming website – called ‘Is it possible to crow maize responsibly?‘ You can read if here. It is a very fair summary of the issues involved – what was surprising to me was the implied acceptance that most maize wasn’t being grown responsibly.
This is a tweet from Toby Willison – he is the Environment Agency’s Executive Director of Operations – good to see the EA taking a stand but I would like to see them getting more proactively involved locally and publicly.
I also came across this piece on the BBC website about a farmer in Somerset “Powered by poo: Somerset farmer enjoys biogas boom” – see here. This is very encouraging – there is a huge growth currently of biogas or anaerobic digestion (AD) plants at the moment – the Government is actively and financially supporting this process under the banner of ‘Energy from Waste’. However most of the new AD plants in my part of the world rely on the contract growing of maize to fuel the plants as there doesn’t appear to be enough waste available. This Somerset farmer shows it can be done and he specifically states that he isn’t going to use maize in his plant as he has enough waste via his dairy herd. Good for him – solving the problem of the disposal of animal waste by producing green power.
The other AD plant I know that runs on waste only is the Langage plant near Plymouth. They recently submitted a planning application to expand the site so I emailed them asking if this meant there would be an expansion to maize growing in the area to supply the enlarged plant. They came back to me immediately and told me they didn’t use maize in their system and only used waste. Good for them too.
The Soil Association have also just published a new report entitled “Seven Ways to Save our Soils” which you can download here. This report isn’t just about maize, it is about soil management generally but is of course very relevant to maize cultivation. Here are the 7 ways:-
- Increase the amount of plant and animal matter going back onto fields
- Improve soil health monitoring across the UK
- Encourage soil organisms – both those that build up soil and those that release nutrients
- Cover up bare soil with continuous plant cover
- Bring more trees onto farmland
- Reduce soil compaction from machinery and livestock
- Design crop rotations to improve soil health
If you have published a report like this 40 years ago farmers would have looked at you as if you were mad – it was what they all did routinely – how times have changed.
Finally as a result of the winter storms and their impact on my village – Exton in East Devon I wrote to my local MP Hugo Swire about flooding and the issue of the increased cultivation of maize. My letter to him is below.
27th Jan 16
Dear Mr Swire MP,